What is Workplace Discrimination and How Do You Report It?

Many employees have trouble figuring out what to do when they are a victim of or witness workplace discrimination.  An employee might not even realize they are experiencing workplace discrimination.

Workplace discrimination can cause physical, mental, and emotional health problems, low productivity, absenteeism, high turnover, and poor morale. Employees judgments can also be compromised creating safety hazards.

Navigating the issues of workplace discrimination can be complicated. There may be fears about reporting discrimination because of retaliation and negative consequences. Employees might not know who to speak to or even understand the importance of keeping a record of the possible discrimination.

Before an employee can figure out how to address a possible workplace discrimination, they need to understand what workplace discrimination looks and sounds like.  Workplace discrimination can come in many forms: sexual harassment, discrimination based on race, age, gender, national origin, sexual orientation or cyber harassment and digital discrimination.

Some discriminatory behaviors are:

  • Aggressive and threatening behavior
  • Demotion, firing or being passed up for a promotion
  • Greater scrutiny and lowered performance ratings
  • Unequal salaries, benefits, or hiring
  • Inappropriate and unwanted touching
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Sexual assault or indecent exposure
  • Being excluded from activities, trainings, or seminars and conferences
  • Sharing offensive e-mails
  • Withholding work related information
  • Spreading rumors
  • Spreading unwanted photos of colleagues on social media
  • Favoring a U.S. citizen over other work-authorized individuals
  • Threatening investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Asking for verification or reverification documentation beyond what is authorized by the Federal government

Maybe you have experienced any of these behaviors or witnessed a colleague experience these behaviors but are not sure what to do next. Here are some ways to report and address these workplace discriminations:

  • Start creating a diary. Things to write down are the date, time, place, who was involved and what took place.
  • Take a cell phone photo.
  • Speak to your supervisor or Human Resources. Human Resources should set up a meeting with you within days of your complaint, should show empathy and provide a timeline when they will follow up with you.
  • If your company has one, report the discrimination to an anonymous hotline. The hotline should be available 24-hours, 7 days a week. The number should be prominently displayed and on company communications.
  • If your company does not have Human Resources or the owners are the problem, you can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (dhr.ny.gov) or the New York City Commission on Human Rights (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/index.page)
  • Contact an employment attorney.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of employees never confront workplace discrimination. Instead they become silent bystanders and never do anything at all. Employers need to take the time to teach their employees how to appropriately handle these situations.

Ultimately, change comes from employees speaking out.  Nobody wants to work for or do business with a company that is known to be toxic.

For more information on workplace discrimination and how to report it, contact Kessler Matura at 888-831-8615.

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